The Preparation of a Soul for Departure

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 7
To see earth and heaven, each in its true condition, is the first and greatest element in this preparation. We must learn practically the true condition of the earth, and then faith has scope, so to speak, to occupy us with heaven. It is slowly and painfully that we learn to see earth as it is. “The earth hath he given to the children of men.” (Psa. 115:1616The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's: but the earth hath he given to the children of men. (Psalm 115:16)). And consequently the heart of man finds it no easy thing to surrender its natural and rightful tie to earth; and it does not surrender it until it learns, not only that heaven is in view, but that the earth itself, instead of being a place of rest and attraction is one of tumult, evil, and sorrow; then the promise and hope of heaven comes to be appreciated and enjoyed. This is the practical way the soul must learn that there is death here, and life only with God. What an impression Stephen had of man on the earth, before his soul was filled with the glory of Christ; he stood, as it were, on the verge of the land of Israel, the last patriot. He reviewed the rebellions of his nation, and how God’s mercies had been forfeited; a terrible panorama had been stretched out before his soul, and he arrives at the conclusion that all was in vain, as God’s servant, as a Jew, as a patriot, the desire of his eyes is swept away and gone forever. To him thus widowed, heaven is opened, and there is disclosed to him the place where Jesus is; filled and engrossed with this sight he finishes his course on earth. Passing through great afflictions, but all unmoved by them, he is prepared for departure, he is full of where he is going, and sees it as he has seen earth, in its true condition.
Now, Stephen felt what this earth was before the heaven was opened to him; yet, he suffered more from earth afterward, or rather he was placed in circumstances of greater suffering, though no doubt he felt the suffering less than before the preparation was perfected. The earth, unhesitatingly and absolutely surrendered, and heaven the stay, and support, and joy of his soul.
One must not go to heaven as if accepting it, merely because one cannot stay on earth. It must be, “I long to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Phil. 1:2323For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: (Philippians 1:23).) This Paul uttered in the prison at Rome.
Each of us will be prepared in a different way Jacob was prepared by the death of Rachael; Moses was sent to Pisgah; Elijah to journey from Gilgal to Bethel, and back over Jordan to the wilderness; Paul in the prison; and Stephen rejected by his nation; all and each are taught that there is nothing here to which the heart, like Lot’s wife, would look back to as leaving it with regret. Each had entered into death here, and life was therefore all before him. And this is true preparation.